Skip to comments.My (Imminent) Reception into the Roman Catholic Church
Posted on 05/28/2007 11:09:15 AM PDT by Titanites
Several weeks ago, I learned through a mutual friend that Frank Beckwith was intending to return to the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, Frank learned that I myself have been moving in the direction of Rome for the last several years. I am very pleased to be able to announce that I intend to be received into the Church on May 26th, at St. Louis King of France parish in Austin. My own story is quite different from Frank’s, although our reasons for entering the Church of Rome are strikingly parallel.
I was baptized through the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, and I have been an active member of the church body ever since. As a Lutheran, I’ve never thought of myself as “Protestant”, nor have I ever embraced the kind of extreme sola-scripturism that has been much in evidence in responses to Frank’s announcement. I always recognized that the Scriptures are themselves the foundation of, and very much a part of, a divine Tradition. Although I believed that only the Scriptures were infallible, I nonetheless assigned great weight to the ‘rule of faith’ established by the continuous tradition of teaching by the Church, and as reflected in the writings of the Fathers and the decrees of Councils. Insofar as I accepted a form of ‘sola scriptura’, it took the form of insisting that all doctrines must have their source in the Scriptures as interpreted by the Church, or in the universal practices and teaching of the early church. This is the only sort of “sola scriptura” principle that can hold up to logical scrutiny, since the Scriptures themselves provide no definition of the canon and no clear statement of any sola-scriptura principle (both of these can be found only in the Fathers and Councils). Extreme sola-scripturism is, given these facts, self-refuting.
How, then, could I have remained Lutheran? I did so because I believed that the late medieval church (in the form of both the Scotists and the nominalists like Ockham and Biel) had distorted the doctrine of salvation or “justification”, embracing a kind of “Pelagian” error: that is, the notion that human beings can save themselves through the exercise of unaided human reason and will. I still believe this to be so (as do many, if not most, contemporary Roman Catholic theologians). I also believed that the Church erred in its brusque condemnation of Luther’s early protests (again, a view I still hold), and that the Council of Trent solidified a kind of apostasy from the true faith (this is where my current view departs from my former one). I believed that the teachings of the church popularly known as “Lutheran” or “Evangelical”, as codified in the sixteenth century Book of Concord, constituted the defining characteristic of the one Catholic Church in its fullness, in continuity on all essentials with the teachings of the Church from the first century until at least the twelfth. The logic of my position was a simple one: the modern Roman Church clearly embraced an erroneous doctrine of justification, which nullified its otherwise strong historical claim to continuity with the apostles (especially on the matter of ecclesiology, the theory of the Church), depriving modern Christians of any good reason to embrace late-medieval and modern developments in Roman Catholic doctrine (including the immaculate conception and papal infallibility).
Those of you who know more about theology and the history of theology than I did then can easily see how untenable a position I held (although I think this untenable position is one still held by many, if not most, thoughtful Lutherans and Reformed Christians). My confidence in this position was shaken by three blows: (1) new scholarship (primarily by Protestants) on Paul’s epistles, which raised profound doubts about the correctness of Martin Luther’s and Phillip Melanchthon’s excessively individualistic and existentialist reading of Paul’s teaching on justification by faith, (2) the fruits of Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue on justification, expressed most fully in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1997, that greatly clarified for me the subtlety of the doctrinal differences between the two bodies, and (3) a more thorough exposure to the writings of the early Church fathers, especially those considered most “evangelical”: Chrysostom, Ambrose, and (above all) Augustine of Hippo. I began to realize that many Lutheran and Protestant polemicists have been guilty of two fallacies: a straw-man version of contemporary Roman Catholic teaching, and a cherry-picking of quotations from the Fathers, ignoring the undeniable contradiction between the teachings of those Fathers, taken as a whole, and the one-sided version of the faith-alone doctrine on justification embraced by the second generation of the Reformation (especially Martin Chemnitz). The Joint Declaration and the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church aided me in giving a closer and more charitable reading to the anathemas of the Council of Trent (which I still believe to be have been written in an unprofitably provocative way).
This is a very brief summary of the considerations that led to my theological transformation. I have available a set of private notes that began as a purely intellectual exercise: an attempt to exorcise my doubts about Lutheranism by putting them to paper and exposing them to critique (both on my part and on that of others). As it turned out, the more I wrote, the more reasons I found for changing my outlook. The notes can be downloaded HERE.
Bear in mind that I am no professional theologian, and I claim no special authority for my conclusions. I welcome feedback to these notes, but I would ask that my readers take a look first at John Henry Newman’s book, An Essay on the Development of Doctrine (1845). Newman’s book is essential background reading for my notes, because he provides the decisive rebuttal to the argument that the supremacy of the Pope and other contemporary, distinctively Roman Catholic doctrines constitute objectionable “innovations”. Newman convincingly argues that the recognition of genuine development in Christian doctrine is inescapable, as anyone who knows the history of the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ must recognize.
One more thing about my notes: they were written with an audience of one (myself) in mind. In writing them, I gave no thought to being diplomatic or irenic. My only point was to try to sort out which of the two traditions was more likely to be the fullest expression of the Gospel. They are deliberately one-sided: there is much that I could have said about the virtues of the Lutheran tradition and the need for the reformation of the 16th century Church not included here.
Please bear in mind also the distinction between the reality of justification and our theological theories about that reality. As a Roman Catholic, I will trust no less in Jesus as my Savior, nor more in my own works, than I have as a Lutheran. I’m certainly fallible and thus capable of trading in a better theory of justification for a worse one, but I urge my Protestant brethren to remember, before making any judgments about the state of my soul, that sinners are justified by trusting in Jesus and not by believing a theory of justification.
Robert Koons’ recent conversion story (former Lutheran Church Missoui Synod). He has provided extensive notes explaining his decision.
Welcome home Robert! The angels rejoice in Heaven. I pray that all will see the light, stop denying Christ and return to the Church He founded.
Anyone keeping score?
(And remember, if the numbers go toward the Protestants, it’s a well-documented fact that only scholars cross the Tiber towards Rome, and only uneducated hicks cross the other way)
Anyone following up, to see if he became a Freemason after his supposed conversion?
As for "uneducated hicks", we become educated and join the Church, we just don't have any notoriety or fame so we don't make the news. Our parish welcomed 19 new members this Easter.
Lead Kindly Light. As Anglican convert, Cardinal Newman, wrote “not to lose what they have but to gain what they have not, by means of what they have, more may be given to them... “
For those who may be interested, here is the list of upcoming guests for EWTN's program - The Journey Home. EWTN is broadcast over most cable stations, satellite tv and via the Internet at http://www.ewtn.com
Paul Thigpen, Gordon Sibley, Chris Dixon
Former Church of Christ minister
Former Southern Baptist minister
I don't know if it was "years of discernment" for me; I went from atheism to Catholicism with a stop along the way as an agnostic. I do know that it was a combination of a recognition of the simplicity of faith and the understanding that one need not leave one's intellect at the Church door in order to believe which lead me to the Church of Rome. Dispite its earthly errors, it still is the first, best and greatest house of our Father.
As for the classes; well . . . there was little about Christian or Catholic doctrine which was unknown to me as I had studied both in order to be clever in my disdain. Little did I know the sneaky irony of the Father as I was lead to Him while thinking I was going in the other direction. For the one who set heaven and earth spinning has little trouble with outwitting a dullard like me.
Thank goodness He did it in a wonderful way.
I think you missed the point about the uneducated hicks part. Seems that only uneducated hicks leave the Catholic Church. Even your statement alludes to the idea that uneducated hicks that get educated join the Church.
it’s just anecdotal but something i have noticed is that converts to Catholicism usually do not blast their former denomination. As my wife would say, when she became caholic, it simply completed and built upon a Christian foundation already laid. maybe a few bricks are removed but really it’s more about the fullness of the faith than condemning the former denomination. She has positive memories of that early faith still.
Yet, when Catholics leave to join a Protestant church, we are usually blasted. I know that this can’t always be true, yet these “whore of babylon” judgments on us are just ludicrous.
Condemning the Church is similar condemning your own parents. Even if Luther was “right”, how can he be justified condemning the very Church that passed on that faith to him to begin with?
Yes, He is the original “multi-tasker” isn’t He.
It seemed to me that he was implying, with tongue in cheek, that that was the opinion of Catholics. IOW, that Catholics like to think that only brilliant scholars find the Church and only people who are idiot, know-nothings would ever leave and so that also implies that non-scholars would never consider becoming Catholic as a matter of faith.
uneducated hicks that get educated
Well, you have to know and assent to what you believe but you still don't have to be a scholar. You don't have to read the early fathers, you don't have to know the whole history of the church, you just have to know what it believes and assent to that belief.
I have written this very thing a number of times on this forum. As a convert myself, I never felt the need to bad-talk my Protestant roots. Nor did I feel a need to bad-talk to my Protestant siblings.
I didn’t feel compelled to show contempt for their choice of church to attend or to aggressively proselytize to them. As a result, one of my sisters tells me how great she thinks the Pope is and the other sister attends Mass with me when she visits from out-of-state. Both of my parents—who were not Catholic—were so happy to be visited by a priest when they were dying. It was a great and unforgettable moment for them-—and for me.
God is good—all the time. All the time, God is good.
God is much better to us than we deserve, isn't He?
. . . .but they're just such easy targets!
Even if Luther was right, how can he be justified condemning the very Church that passed on that faith to him to begin with?
Do we get our faith from our church or is it a gift from God?
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